AP US History Curriculum Controversy Continues in NC


The ongoing national debate over the redesigned Advanced Placement US history course has found a home in North Carolina where the State Board of Education will soon hold a conference-call meeting to speak with the College Board.

Since the College Board developed the new course for high school students, numerous critics have charged the course with being light on what they see as necessary parts of American history. The College Board and North Carolina state board call will include a leading national critic of the revamped course, says T. Keung Hui, writing for The Charlotte Observer.

Critics believe that the course focuses too much on topics like slavery, which, they say, promotes a “negative view of American history.” In a document prepared for this week’s meeting, Larry Krieger, who is in opposition to the course, said:

“The theme of ‘white superiority’ and the ‘subjugation of Africans and American Indians’ plays a key role in the College Board Framework.”

State education leaders say there are no plans to eliminate the course, which is taken by 11,000 North Carolina students.

“This is not a prelude to any action,” State Board of Education Chairman Bill Cobey said in an interview Wednesday. “This is an informational meeting open to the public for anyone to listen.”

The course is under fire from conservative groups who have lobbied state and local leaders.  Many of these same critics also oppose the Common Core State Standards in math and language arts, which they say have an “anti-American bias.”  Cobey says that he organized the meeting this week after being approached by several board members and Lt. Governor Dan Forest, who wanted more information about the issue.

Krieger, who was an AP US History teacher and began his career in the Charlotte-Mecklenberg school system, has shared his views about the revised course on several national conservative websites. He says that the state’s Founding Principles Act passed in 2011 requires high school students to learn about “individual rights, rule of law, equal justice under the law, Creator-endowed inalienable rights”, and other principles.

There will also be public hearings held by the Virginia Board of Education concerning recent revisions to the history and social science Standards of Learning, according to the Associated Press, which will take place at five historic sites across the state. The last revision of the standards, which outline what a student is expected to master in the subject area by the end of each grade, came in 2008.

After criticism of the revised AP US history course, Don Gifford, an education program consultant for history, government and social studies for the Kansas Department of Education, defended the course by stating that the standards were not in place to tell students what to think – nor were they an attempt to tell teachers what to teach, writes Suzanne Perez Tobias of The Wichita Eagle. History is a story, a narrative that is told, testified Gifford.  His point of view was that criticisms of the revision were:

 “…people trying to validate a particular point of view. They think they’ve found the truth in history, and so they want to prescribe that truth.”

He added that about 15,400 Kansas students take AP courses, and about 2,000 of that number take Advanced Placement US history. Gifford pointed out that the new course was more of an inquiry than a memorization of names, dates, and places.

An editorial in The Herald of Rock Hill in South Carolina saluted its state’s Board of Education for not automatically accepting the changes to the Advanced Placement US history course.  The editorial also commended those who supported the course by attending a November 12 meeting of the board to share their thoughts at what the author called a real-life civics lesson.

One of the goals of the AP course is to teach students to look critically at the available facts and interpret them in a scholarly way. If we want South Carolina students to be prepared to do the critical thinking that will be required in college and to be competitive with other students around the world, they will need courses like this, not the stunted version the critics have in mind.

We congratulate Board of Education members for leaving the guidelines alone.

Dawn Baumgartner Vaughn, a parent and journalist writing for The Herald-Sun of Durham, NC, says that there is always more history to learn. She points out that knowing what horrible things occurred in this country’s history has not made her any less patriotic. The greatness of this country is that she is not forced to say the Pledge of Allegiance, she wants to say it. Teach it all, she concludes.